I feel very fortunate to have had the privilege of raising three children and being a witness to watching them as they grew to their adulthood. I truly believe that parenting is both an honor and a gift from God. It should be treated as the most important role you will ever have. Having said that, I should add that no parent is perfect. As my mother used to say, “If God did not expect you to make a few mistakes along the way, He would not have put erasers on pencils.”
I do find myself occasionally becoming nostalgic for those days when my kids were young. Those trips to gymnastics lessons, the roller skating rink, the ice skating rink, McDonald’s, school programs, plays, dance recitals, I could go on and on. You think that while you’re experiencing it, you’ll remember every detail forever. I can tell you however, that you won’t remember everything. I one time memorized the ingredients to a “Big Mac McDonald’s commercial” that I can still recite today (two all-beef patties, special sauce, cheese, lettuce, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun…) but I can’t remember the specifics of every detail of my son’s first bike ride or my oldest daughter’s first dance. I remember many details of my youngest daughter’s early years, but I can’t remember as much as I would like. I fortunately have pictures of several important moments for all my kids but, in retrospect, I wished that I would have taken the time to jot a few notes down about these times.
I’ve decided to pass on a little wisdom from someone who has raised their kids to those who are still in the “thick of it.”
1) Use those books you were given at the baby showers and make yourself write down not just first words, but conversations, especially if it made you smile. I wish I would have bought a notebook for each of my children so I could have kept a journal documenting some of their
special moments. I’m a writer, it should have been a no brainer. When I watch my Granddaughter recite the entire movie of “Frozen” it brings back memories that I know my other children likely experienced, but unfortunately, some of those memories are a little fuzzy.
2) My friend and I have commented that time seems to be zipping by now that we’re older. She quotes her father saying, “The older you are, the faster time goes.” This is very true. When you’re younger, you think you have nothing but time on your hands. Spend as much time as you can with your children, because that time with them is so precious. Insist on sitting down and playing those card games and board games. Take away their phones and ipads and step away from your computer and your own phone to spend quality time together.
3) Talk to your kids. This is one lesson I learned from my mother. Tell them about your own childhood and mistakes you made. They need to know its all part of growing up. Talk to them about everything. Listen to how they respond. Ask questions about friends, interests, teachers, who are their favorite singers, actors etc. Listen to the answers. I say this, because it is in getting to know your children that will make you realize they are individuals.
4) We were not able to afford a lot of family vacations when my kids were young. However, I did insist on a drive now and then to the beach and trips to visit family. These were special moments for all three of my kids and they remember these to this day. Many of these times were documented with pictures, but it’s ok to write a few of these memories in a journal. I’m really pleased they still talk about these moments when we are all together.
5) Try not to get too distracted by things around you that you don’t have time to take in the special moments your kids are experiencing. Attend those school plays, music performances, sporting events, dance recitals, gymnastics events; in this day and age, our kids are very involved in a number of things. They are important since they help so much with their self-esteem and their social skills. They need to know you feel they are just as important to you, not just them.
6) Go to church together. Let them know how prayer is an essential part of everyday life. If they see how important it is to you, they will follow your lead. Being humble in the presence of God is such a valuable message to give them.
7) Get to know their friends. Invite them to your home for movies and pizzas. To this day, I run into my children’s friends and they all thank me for giving them a fun place to hang out. They remember the cookies, banana bread and popcorn and all the pizzas they ate. Along with those memories are valuable lessons about learning about each other’s individual personalities.
8) Here’s a hard one. If they confide in you, keep it to yourself.
9) Try not to live vicariously through your kids. If they have different interests than you, it’s ok. They will need you to help them develop their own interests and talents.
10) Respect their privacy, but don’t be afraid to intervene if they are having difficult moments. Most of my friends are grandparents. They all share with me how exciting it is to be involved with their grandkids. You always hear grandparents tell you they love being a grandparent because they have all the joy and don’t have to deal with the difficulties. I tell them that the difference for me from raising my children vs being a grandparent is the distractions that got in my way when I was parenting. You realize as a grandparent they are not as important as they once were. “Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education at the University of Nebraska majoring in Special Education and minoring in English and now works as an Agent in the Insurance Industry. A mother and grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and has spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband Jack. She is a cancer surviver which inspired her to begin writing six years ago. She is a writer for the Catholic Imagination Column for Tuscany Press, and is currently working on several other writing projects.
Copyright 2015 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh.
Photo: Monopoly Dice by Matthew Hull. Copyright 2005. Via Morguefile.